FOSDEM 2011, the report

Wow! x2

Alright. Back in time, On Thursday, February the 3rd I woke up at 4.00 Am, got myself ready and hit the road for 150 km toward Tunis, in order to take the flight to Brussels. I caught up with Nihed at the airport almost in time with the luggage registration deadline. Once in the airplane, the pilot showed up from his cabin to tell us that the luggage personnel are on strike and designated some passengers to bring in the suitcases into the plane by themselves, the open source way 🙂 Those guys were later invited by the pilot to visit the cabin, as a recognition gesture. We landed in Brussels, took the shuttle to the hotel, got to our room and then went downtown for a long stroll.

On Friday evening, we had the pleasure to attend the Fedora Activity Day. We were the first to arrive on the spot. On our way there, we met with Zoltan Hoppar; we had a nice chat where he told us he was waiting for Gent Thaçi, from Albania, to join him. We went upstairs at “La Mort Subite” brasserie and waited for the rest of the group. 15min later, Pierros, Christos and Nicu joined in, followed by Max Spevack and Jared Smith from the US. It was like 20min later on, and the entire room went packed (around 30 persons attended) and we started the FAD. We discussed the Fedora leadership, the sponsorship and overall how to bring in more people in order to rise the awareness about Fedora. Then enters Jan Wildeboer, shooting: Free Egypt! He’s from Redhat and is an EMEA Evangelist and Hacker. The guy didn’t spare a moment to introduce his cause and started talking about information, freedom, privacy, standards and how open source and FLOSS would be a corner stone to achieve that vision. He also introduced his Art Project: The Transnational Identity. That was really a grand speech. This didn’t stop us from getting back to the Fedora related topic where he told us that the Fedora community can always go back to him to discuss and argue its short term needs and ask for sponsorship. Once finished, the group went downtown to the Delirium Bar for the FAD associated social event.

FOSDEM kicked in, on Saturday the 5th. We woke up early and went to the ULB by bus. We met Vamory Traore and discussed the recent events that shook Tunisia and Egypt and how this is going to redefine the social and political culture of the region, hopefully for the better. He was kind to point us to the right direction to reach the ULB. Once there we started unpacking the Fedora swag after a meet and greet with all the participants there. I headed to the Jansen amphitheater for the keynote delivered by Eben Moglen entitled “Why Political Liberty Depends on Software Freedom More Than Ever”. Basically he argued that information on the Internet should be kept decentralized and free from any power in order to build and sustain a modern democratic society. He explained that what happened in Tunisia and Egypt is a reflection of what people are striving for and in order to ensure and keep that promise, FLOSS-like processes (for policy) should be implemented. All in all, it was a great talk and he even received an ovation from the public. I stayed in Jansen and followed the next talk about “LLVM and Clang” where the speaker depicted the status of the project comparing Clang against GCC regarding compilation time, developer friendliness, code quality, embedded/deployment environments (OpenGL’s shaders), etc. The sessions, performed in parallel in the various premises, covered topics such as embedded, distributions, desktop, MySQL, GNU, System, Web, security, Mono, Free Java and Mozilla. Straight after the keynotes, I went back to the group for lunch, took some Belgian fries with Nihed but then followed Max, Gerold, the Greek team and the French Fedora crew to a nearby restaurant which happened to be run by a Tunisian entrepreneur! I had some great time discussing with Thomas, Pierre-Yves (from the French team) and Dodji and playing the translator role for the US and Greek friends, where they actually ended up ordering Couscous and Tagine (very well known Tunisian specialty 🙂 We spent so much time there, that I missed the great talk given by Lennart Poettering about systemd, the new system and session manager for Linux. I caught with Lennart later on at the Fedora booth where he told me to checkout his blog for a link to a similar presentation he gave in Australia about systemd. I took the opportunity to ask few questions regarding the speed improvements of systemd and the status of the desktop interactivity patch that recently hit the mainline kernel. The guy was very humble and provided very clear and satisfactory answers. I then headed to to attend “Model Checking the Linux Kernel” given by Alexandre Lissy, a Phd student. This one was really an introductory talk to a new technique. He didn’t provide that much of details. I went back to the booth to spend some time with the Fedora ambassadors and to speak with visitors. The entire Fedora group went downtown for diner. It was an amazing opportunity to talk to Frederic, Fabien, Jared about life, food, technology and whatnot. I had a Belgian specialty “Vol au Vent” as a main dish which did taste rather good.

On Sunday, the second/final day of FOSDEM, I spend most of the morning in Lameere amphitheater attending “Linaro”, “Qt tales from the embedded trenches” and “MeeGo: A solid platform for hackable mobile devices” talks. The first presentation was really good, dealing with the embedded ARM processors ecosystem presenting the current and future trends for toolsets, cores, instruction sets, performance, filesystems, etc. The idea/trend is about standardizing all those items so that hardware integrators and application developers can compare themselves against that baseline, defined by the Linaro consortium. The second presentation dealt with the future of Qt, QML and the level of integration in the various platforms such as MeeGo and Symbian. The third talk was a purely marketing presentation and it didn’t really bring anything new to the table. It was all about how the project is organizing its presence on the Internet and commercial fronts. Then back to the booth for more interaction with the visitors, visiting the other booths and the talking to Ambassadors. We managed to distribute most of our swag to the attendees!

Alright, so there you have it. IMHO, FOSDEM 2010 was more beefed up, content wise. However this iteration felt much more social and convivial, definitely because I do already know a lot of people there. All in all (and this will always hold true, IMHO) FOSDEM is really an event that you don’t want to miss: this is where you get a direct access/vision on what’s going on at the world-wide level as far as FLOSS and the associated ecosystem are concerned, packed in just two days of extreme awesomeness. If you’re into this, then FOSDEM should be on your next-stop list!

FOSDEM 2011 schedule: http://fosdem.org/2011/schedule

-Ilyes Gouta